I’m kicking myself for not have done this a year earlier, but at least I’m collecting the benefits now: I recently signed up for a Google Voice number. Some of you may already use Google Voice, but for those who are unfamiliar with it, here’s what it provides:
- A U.S. phone number that calls me through Gmail, meaning that anyone with a U.S. number can call me with no additional charge, and I can pick up the call whenever I’m at my computer (which, given my work and lifestyle, is often).
- For outgoing calls to any U.S. number, I pay 1 cent a minute. For calls to anywhere else in the world, rates that beat the competition.
- Text messages to and from my number are free (for me, and normal cost for the senders).
- Emails telling me when I miss a call or receive a text message.
- Voicemail that I can listen to as audio or see transcribed.
- A Gmail-like interface (at google.com/voice) where I can access my entire phone history, including call times, text messages, and voicemails (both audio and text).
- The ability to record calls and save the audio files as MP3s. (This can only be turned on once a call has been started, and both people on the line hear, “This call is now being recorded,” so it can’t be used as a stealth device, but it would be awesome for phone interviews.)
I guess I would be afraid of posting my number to the internet, but Google Voice’s blocking features should probably be enough to prevent me from suffering from stalkers or sales cales, so the number is [see update below]. If I start to get unwanted calls (not from friends!), I’ll take this down, so please save the number now. So far I’ve used it for about half a dozen calls. One of them had terrible quality, but I think that was a result of connectivity issues on my end that would have also affected Skype. All the others have been perfectly clear, with little or no noticeable delay. (Overall, I’d say the quality of the phone calls is nearly identical to that of Skype.)
My old U.S. number is still active, though of course I’m not there to answer it now. With my new number, you can call me just as you would when I’m in the U.S. And if I get used to having my voicemail transcribed, I’ll keep this new number as my permanent one in the future, arranging it to forward to my U.S. phone the next time I’m in the country.
Update 9/25/11: Yesterday I got a call from the Ron Paul campaign, and I don’t know how they would have gotten the number except by calling every New York-area cell phone number or my picking it up from this site, so I’ve taken it down. Please ask for it if you’d like to be able to reach me by phone.